Kenya’s mobile network operators could now find themselves on the wrong side of the law as the SIM card registration regulations come into effect today, a month after they were gazetted on January 11.
Already, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has asked the operators to submit their statistics on reconnected lines, new registrations and suspended lines to monitor compliance with the regulations.
Under the Miscellaneous Amendment Act No 12 of 2012, mobile operators have to keep an accurate register of the people they provide access to. Those found not complying face a fine of up to KSh500,000 (approx US$5,700) for any breach of the law.
Users of the unregistered SIM cards are not spared either as, according to the law, anyone found in contravention faces a fine of up to KSh300,000 (approx US$3,400) or a three year jail term.
Information and Communication ministry permanent secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said the efforts are meant to ensure that a repeat of the 2007/08 post election violence that saw telecommunication gadgets play a major role is not repeated.
“Mobile operators will bear the intermediary liability in that they become an accomplice by failure to register the SIM-cards. Any aggrieved person can sue the telecommunication firms for any crimes committed using the unregistered SIM cards. It will be upon the mobile operators to reveal the identity of the person,” said Ndemo in an interview with Business Daily.
Critics observe the operators have every reason to avoid finding themselves pinned against the wall for crimes perpetrated by their subscribers given the number of increased kidnappings and hate speech using mobile phone devices.
As to the level of compliance, Kenyans have to wait and see whether the CCK will have the power to implement some of these threats against major companies largely considered to be more powerful than the regulator.